Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Stuart
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by Stuart » Thu May 07, 2020 11:59 pm

Stephen,

I don't hate you, I just think your wife must be a saint.
“’That was excellently observed’, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.” - Jonathan Swift

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Secret Alias
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by Secret Alias » Fri May 08, 2020 5:38 am

That is true. But what does that have to do with my discovery of a homoerotic letter from Theodore and its implication for the authenticity of the disputed homoerotic letter to Theodore? Surely this presents a better explanation for the ancient origins of the discovery as opposed to a disproved conspiracy theory.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Ken Olson
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by Ken Olson » Fri May 15, 2020 12:44 pm

Stephan Not-So-Secret-Alias Huller's arguments on the Letter to Theodore have relied largely on proposing a false dichotomy, a stark choice between Stephan and Stephen, as though those two choices exhausted the possible options. There's also a good bit of straw manning of opposing arguments, not just by identifying all arguments against authenticity with Stephen Carlson's theory, but using hyperbole to misstate that Carlson's theory itself (e.g., it's not a conspiracy theory, nor does it actually hold that Morton Smith was omniscient and omnipotent). There's a fallacy of composition/distribution involved as he seems to insist that all the arguments against his position must be judged collectively so that they are no stronger than the weakest arguments made for them, while his own conclusion is separable from the mistaken or unsupported arguments he's made for it (e.g., a recently created document could not be mistaken for an antique one; the Staphylus episode is dependent on Secret Mark). Then there's a good bit of Bulverism in Stephan's argumentation: He freely hypothesizes psychological or ideological motives for others to have come to mistaken conclusions and concludes on that basis their conclusions are mistaken. He takes the rhetorical pose that those who disagree with him are either stupid or dishonest and are simply refusing to admit his conclusions are obvious, thus excusing himself from having to establish them by reasoned argument. There's a high proportion of heat to light (or noise to signal) in the stuff he posts.

As I said in the Quesnell 1983 thread, though, conclusions are not rejected because they have had bad arguments made for them, and it is necessary to separate the argument from the arguer (though Stephan does not make this easy). I think that the theory Stephan puts forward about the homoerotic reading of Secret Mark deserves serious consideration and I'm going to try to evaluate it to the extent that I am able to understand it.

Most readings of Secret Mark by defenders of authenticity entail denying that the text suggests a homosexual relationship between Jesus and the young man, despite the fact that the text itself seems to acknowledge that the Carpocratians saw such a suggestion there, and most modern readers can see why they did. According to these defenders of authenticity, the text is entirely about something else but contains language which, by sheer coincidence, lends itself to such a homosexual reading. The attempt not to see the homosexual reading of Secret Mark seems forced and unconvincing and undermines confidence in the arguments presented by these defenders of the authenticity of the text.

Stephan's reading, on the other hand, acknowledges the homoerotic reading of the text. (To be sure, he insists on a not very clearly defined distinction between homosexual and nearly similar terms like homoerotic and same-sex – let's grant for the moment that this may mean that the physical act of sexual intercourse is not necessarily implied in the term). There have been homosexual people as long as there have been people, and in many times and places, including particularly in Christian societies, they have been forced to exist in the closet or under the radar. It seems perfectly reasonable to suggest that they might have had a gay Jesus, just as Gnostics had a Gnostic Jesus and Jews had a Jewish Jesus who expected his followers to obey the Mosaic law. It seems reasonable to think as well that they might have had a written gospel that portrayed Jesus as gay and that this gospel would have been kept in the closet, with a carefully controlled distribution within a limited circle. If this thesis is accepted, then the subject of Jesus's homosexuality need not be an indicator of a modern concern, but would fit into an ancient context.

This reading makes a good bit of sense of some of the more problematic parts of the Letter To Theodore, particularly the part in which Clement tells Theodore to commit perjury if necessary:
To them [the Carpocratians], therefore, as I said above, one must never give way; nor, when they put
forward their falsifications, should one concede that the secret Gospel is by Mark, but should even deny it on oath. For, "Not all true things are to be said to all men".
Scholars have been puzzled by Clement's apparent instruction to Theodore to lie. Some have suggested that he meant only that Theodore should deny the falsifications, but this does not appear to be what the text says. He appears to be saying that one should deny the secret gospel (which the Carpocratians have a copy of) is by the Evangelist Mark, and that the truth should not be spoken to everyone.

This works well on the theory that Secret Mark is a homoerotic story advocating same-sex unions (to use John Boswell's term) told among a limited group within the church that needs to stay under the radar to survive. On this reading, Clement would not be denying that the text concerns Jesus entering into a same sex relationship, he would be saying to Theodore that the text is indeed about Jesus having a same sex-relationship, but that one should deny to outsiders that the text the Carpocatians copied is the work of Mark or used by the Alexandrian church. Outsiders, such as the Carpocratians, will misunderstand the same-sex union as carnal and sinful, rather than in the true elevated Platonic or spiritual sense, and this will cause problems for the limited circle in the Alexandrian church that embraces same-sex unions. It's a secret gospel that must be kept within a limited circle, whose existence must be denied to the outside world.

Stephan presents other evidence for the presence of same sex-relationships in Alexandrian Christianity.

First, there is a homoerotic passage in Gregory Thaumaturgus's Address of Thanksgiving to Origen (also known as The Panegyric to Origen), which Gregory probably delivered as an oration to Origen's school in Caesarea when he had completed his studies and was preparing to return to his native land.
83) Like a spark landed in the middle of our soul, the love for the most attractive Word of all, holy and most desirable in its ineffable beauty, and for this man who is his friend and confidant,
(84) Gravely wounded by it, I was persuaded to neglect all the affairs or studies for which we seemed destined, including even my precious law, and my native land and friends, those back home and those we were to visit. Just one thing seemed dear and beloved to me, the life of philosophy and this divine human being, its chief exponent.
(85) “And the soul of Jonathan was knit to that of David.”34 I read this only later in the sacred Scriptures, but at the time I felt it no less exactly than it was stated, as it was prophesied in most exact terms.
[Translation from Michael Slusser, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus: Life and Works (The Fathers of the Church vol. 98; CUA 1998); for discussion of the homoerotic content see David Satran, In the Image of Origen: Eros Virtue and Constraint in the Early Christian Academy (2018), who compares what Gregory says of Origen to the Greek tradition of pedagogy and same-sex relationships between a mature man and a youth].
Stephan argues that Gregory Thaumaturgus, whose pre-baptismal name had been Theodore (or so Eusebius says in HE 6.30), was the same Theodore to whom Clement addresses in the Letter to Theodore. On the conventional dating of Clement's death (c. 215 CE) and Theodore/Gregory's birth (c. 213 CE), this would be extremely unlikely. Stephan, however, rejects the traditional dating of the death of Clement, which is based on Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 6.14 and, as inconclusive:

http://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/2011/ ... a-and.html

This seems arbitrary. If we have reason to believe that the Theodore to whom Clement wrote was the same person as Theodore/Gregory, then we can push the date of Clement's death later than it is usually taken to be. But the reason to do this seems to be that Stephan needs it to make his theory work and it's not impossible. Also, I don't know what the basis is for placing Theodore/Gregory's conversion to Christianity in c. 224 CE, though he does say it occurred shortly after his father died when he was fourteen (Thanksgiving Address 5) so perhaps 224 is not far off.

Stephan points to two passages in the writings of Clement and Theodore/Gregory that he thinks show that there is a relationship between the two. This seems weak for two reasons. First, because this parallel is extremely general – the two authors name a substance which is unharmed by fire, but they're different substances. Second, even if we accepted it, it would prove only literary dependence of Theodore/Gregory on Clement's writings, not personal acquaintance with Clement, nor two-way communication with Clement via writing.

Stephan's other suggestion concerns Athenodorus, whom Eusebius (HE 6.30; 7.14, 28) and Jerome (DVI 65; almost certainly dependent on Eusebius) identify as Theodore/Gregory's brother, who also studied under Origen and later served as a bishop in Pontus as he did. Stephan suggests that Athenodorus was, in fact, not his genetic brother but rather his Platonic lover who was made his brother though an Alexandrian same-sex union ritual. The case for this is difficult to make out.

The argument seems to have been copied and pasted from this blogpost:
http://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/2012/ ... -book.html

The other sources we have for the biography of Theodore/Gregory, are his own Address to Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Gregory the Wonderworker from the later fourth century, do not mention Athenodorus or other brothers for Gregory, nor, for that matter, that Gregory's name had been Theodore. It seems we are relying solely on Eusebius here.

Stephan's argument is convoluted. He points to Theodore/Gregory's use of both the first and second person plural in the Address to Origen. At one time, it was widely held that the first person plural referred to Gregory and his brother Athenodorus. The discussion in Slusser points to examples of the first person plural in the address that do not seem to mean Gregory and his brother Athenodorus and
scholars have proposed that Gregory may mean his fellow students of Origen or the audience to which he delivered the Address (who would be largely the same group of people). It is possible he is not using the first person plural consistently or that he is simply employing nosism (the use of the first person plural to refer to oneself) throughout. Some passages from the address that take place earlier than Gregory's arrival at Origen's school would seem to suggest that either a sibling is implied or Gregory is employing nosism (56, “It seemed good to my mother … we should also study with a rhetor”; repeated references to “our sister,” 63-69; Slusser translation).

Stephan makes a strange series of deductions beginning with an argument from silence.
So who was this 'we' that Theodore references in the Panygeric? Richard Valantasis, an expert on the Greek Orthodox tradition suggests the list of possibilities include "fellow students, or the audience at the presumed presentation of the speech, or a combination of all of these." As such it is generally acknowledged by people who have actually studied the material that Gregory did not have a brother accompany him when he left Pontus. To this end, Athenodorus only became the brother of Gregory after undergoing some sort of mystical initiation within the school of Origen at Caesarea.
This seems to be a complete non-sequitur. As far as I can see, none of the difficulties scholars have found in interpreting the “we passages” are solved by the suggestion that Athenodorus was Gregory's Platonic lover who underwent a same-sex union with him at the school at Caesarea, nor is there any direct evidence supporting such a suggestion. The absence of Athenodorus-the-sibling from Gregory's Address would in no way imply the presence of Athenodorus-the-same-sex-partner, and Stephan's reading makes very little sense of the earlier passages I cited above about Gregory's mother and sister. The argument seems to be:

1) Eusebius mentions Gregory having a brother named Athenodorus who attended Origen's school with him and later also served as a bishop in Pontus.
2) But Gregory's Address and Basil's later Life of Gregory do not mention such a brother (or anyone named Athenodorus) arriving at Origen's school with him, or anywhere else, but the address does employ the first person plural in a manner that is not clear.
3) Therefore Athenodorus was Gregory's same-sex partner who was joined to him in a brother-making ritual at Caesarea.

Surely there are other, and better, ways to construe the evidence. Perhaps the first person plural means means an actual brother in some places and not in others, perhaps Athenodorus the sibling came to Origen later than Gregory did (as Slusser suggests), perhaps Eusebius was mistaken and Gregory did not have a brother (in whatever sense) named Athenodorus at all (and maybe his name wasn't Theodore either). But it's hard to see how Athenodorus the same-sex partner of Gregory is suggested anywhere in the sources.

This is not to say that there was never such a thing as a same-sex unions or that the word brother was never used for people in such a union. John Boswell's Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe (1981) makes a number of controversial claims, but his claim that the Christian church performed rituals recognizing same-sex unions is based on the fact that he has a number of texts of such rituals from the sixth to eighteenth centuries centuries that actually say this. Several contain the word ADELFOPOIA (“brother making”). One may consider Boswell's interpretation of the texts as to the nature of such brotherhood to be speculative, but he's not just speculating that texts exist of brother-making rituals exist.

I do not find Stephan's case for Athenodorus being Gergory's Platonic lover at all persuasive, and there is no evidence for his Alexandrian same-sex union ritual. There is indeed a passage by Theodore/Gregory in which he describes his teacher Origen in homoerotic terms, but use of homoerotic imagery in writing is not proof of any sort of same-sex union ritual existing on the ground. That said, I still think there's something to Stephan's homoerotic reading of Secret Mark, as it moves the defense of authenticity from “There is no homoerotic subtext” in Secret Mark to “Yes, it's a homoerotic text, but why would that suggest a modern (or even ancient) forgery rather than an ancient homoerotic text?”

Best,

Ken

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Secret Alias
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by Secret Alias » Fri May 15, 2020 1:47 pm

Let's just make this simple:

1. the OP argued that the homoeroticism in the letter of Clement to someone named Theodore makes the letter suspicious because we shouldn't expect homoeroticism - let alone references to Christian homoerotic mysteries - in the writings of the Church Fathers.
2. I presented a study of a letter written by someone named Theodore to an associate of Clement which contains a likening of the Christian mysteries to a homoerotic relationship that makes no reference to or has no bearing on the question surrounding Morton Smith's discovery.

Whether or not Theodore and Athenodoros were actual brothers or spiritual brothers or carnal brothers or blood brothers or soul brothers or any other kind of brothers someone else has noticed the same kind of language emanating from the closed circle of Alexandrian Church Fathers making the 'difficulties' you associate with To Theodore more of a reflection of your own attitude toward homoeroticism than that of this early Christian culture.

Maybe Clement, Origen and Theodore were more at home using these sorts of allegories and analogies than you are. Yes I think we have an unrealistically bland understanding of the Church Fathers. I have just come back from practicing at the high school of my son where he had difficulty volleying a soccer ball. He was supposed to volley the ball into the net and it hit the crossbar and went over the net. He got frustrated and blamed himself. I calmly reminded him that his form was incorrect. He replied 'You and that Plato. How could he be that smart if he liked little boys.'

The bottom line is that anyone - like Clement of Alexandria - who viewed the Phaedrus as divine or almost divine would necessarily have had tolerance for what we might call deviant sexual attitudes. It's yucky that Plato condones pederasty. That doesn't mean Clement engaged in pedastry or homosexuality. He accepted the divinity of the writings of someone who likened beauty to pedastry. Whether or not the passage in the Secret Gospel of Mark is actually describing homosexuality or something else it can't be an utter shock that Clement and his community would have religious mysteries that 'sounded gay.' Yes it's different than what we have come to expect from 'the Church Fathers.' I grant you that. But people and cultures are surprising - like the first time I flew to Tokyo and saw the male passengers reading hard core porn on the plane like it was Time magazine. It wasn't surprising that men liked porn but reading it openly on a 10 hour flight? Life is full of surprises.

Morton Smith was not gay. There is no evidence of it. I don't know who is gay and who isn't gay. I was shocked when Freddie Mercury gave all his money to his wife. Does that mean that he was 'really' secretly straight? I don't fucking know. I don't care. Secret gospels are known to have existed. Alternative versions of the gospel of Mark are referenced in the Church Fathers. Homerotic mystery language is demonstrated to have been used among the associates of Clement of Alexandria who happens to have been a Platonist.

I don't need to prove that the discovery is authentic. You are claiming it is a fraud without actually providing any evidence to support that utterly radical claim.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

John2
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by John2 » Fri May 15, 2020 3:03 pm

Whether or not the passage in the Secret Gospel of Mark is actually describing homosexuality or something else it can't be an utter shock that Clement and his community would have religious mysteries that 'sounded gay.'

To me it looks like Clement is saying that Secret Mark described homosexuality only in the mind of Carpocrates.

... Carpocrates instructed by them and using deceitful arts, so enslaved a certain presbyter of the church in Alexandria that he got from him a copy of the secret Gospel, which he both interpreted according to his blasphemous and carnal doctrine and, moreover, polluted, mixing with the spotless and holy words utterly shameless lies. To you, therefore, I shall not hesitate to answer the questions you have asked, refuting the falsifications by the very words of the Gospel.

This is why Clement goes on to cite Secret Mark, to show that it did not describe homosexuality.
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John2
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by John2 » Fri May 15, 2020 3:27 pm

Ken wrote:

the Carpocratians saw such a suggestion there, and most modern readers can see why they did.

It doesn't strike me that way, and if I only had what Clement cites from Secret Mark to go by I don't know if it would occur to me. And let's consider the broader context. Clement says Secret Mark contained things that Mark had added to the earlier versions of his gospel (the private and public ones), and whether or not that is true, Clement at least did not see anything in Secret Mark that made him think the other parts of it weren't Mark as we more or less know it. And in Mark, Jesus (by my reading anyway) is pro-Torah and the Torah condemns homosexuality.
Last edited by John2 on Fri May 15, 2020 6:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by Secret Alias » Fri May 15, 2020 3:39 pm

But there is nothing in the 10 commandments. Christian attitudes tend to be shaped by the differences between God's Torah and Moses's Torah.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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John2
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by John2 » Fri May 15, 2020 4:06 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Fri May 15, 2020 3:39 pm
But there is nothing in the 10 commandments. Christian attitudes tend to be shaped by the differences between God's Torah and Moses's Torah.

I knew you were going to bring up your Ten Commandments argument, but I don't buy it. An article I linked to in another thread says something I think is applicable here (to which I will add brackets):

The Pharisees, by putting manmade traditions on par with the word of God, were sinning according to the scriptures (see Deut. 4:2O, 12:32). Just imagine for a second how hypocritical it would be for Yeshua to then turn around and nullify God’s commandments regarding clean/unclean animals [or homosexuality], in the very same chapter where he condemns the hypocrisy of the Pharisees for nullifying God’s commandments.

That Jesus cites a commandment the Pharisees nullify in Mk. 7 that isn't in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 21:17 and Lev. 20:9: "Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death") supports this argument.
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by John2 » Fri May 15, 2020 4:47 pm

Does anyone think that the other references to the young man in Mark suggest anything?


14:51-52:

And a certain young man followed with him, having a linen cloth cast about him, over his naked body: and they lay hold on him; but he left the linen cloth, and fled naked.


16:5-7:

And entering into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he saith unto them, "Be not amazed: ye seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who hath been crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold, the place where they laid him! But go, tell his disciples and Peter, he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you."

Is it just me or does the second passage suggest that the young man was a homosexual and a necrophiliac? He was alone with Jesus' body in the tomb, after all. I wonder what was going on in there ...
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Ken Olson
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Re: Tinker Tailor Soldier Forger

Post by Ken Olson » Fri May 15, 2020 5:12 pm

John2 wrote:
Ken wrote:
the Carpocratians saw such a suggestion there, and most modern readers can see why they did.
It doesn't strike me that way, and if I only had what Clement cites from Secret Mark to go by I don't know if it would occur to me.
and
This is why Clement goes on to cite Secret Mark, to show that it did not describe homosexuality.
:banghead:

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